Paolo Di Canio: The manager.
For the most part it's been good, some bad, a little ugly. One thing you cannot dispute is that it has given Swindon Town a profile like never before.
The former West Ham striker got into another public dispute with a player recently - calling his young goalkeeper Wes Foderingham 'a disgrace'. It is not the first time it has happened, nor is it expected to be the last as Di Canio demands high standards from his League One side, but this week's Roker Ramble wonders whether this is a case of serious Deja vu?
Has Roy Keane reincarnated at Swindon? If not, it seems awfully familiar.
Paolo Di Canio's first job in management has mirrored that of the former Manchester United captain; trailblazing through the division after an uncertain start (Swindon had lost seven of Di Canio's first thirteen league matches as a manager), eventful press conferences and public fall-outs with players. Sunderland fans know the script, and still have the odd masochistic chuckle at the tell-tale sign that it's coming to an end - Jeremy Wray should be on the lookout for a new manager should Di Canio ever start to grow a beard.
Last weekend further conveyed similarities between the pair. Following the 1-0 defeat to Leyton Orient - which ended Swindon's 28-match unbeaten home record - Di Canio stated: "I don't change, they have to change," before adding a classic Keane-ism - the empty threat. "I analyse myself and they need to analyse themselves too. Maybe I overestimated them after our good start to the season."
Admittedly, both Di Canio and Keane made good on their word when openly contemplating the future of their players in the past, and a squad overhaul is not uncommon in the lower leagues - where player turnover is arguably at its highest - yet Di Canio must learn, as Keane did with his ‘one or two may fall by the wayside' line, that the further up the leagues you ascend, the more difficult it is to just discard players and hold grudges. After Sunderland lost 3-0 away to Wigan, Keane used the previous quote to incite a reaction; a regular motivation-by-fear proponent, his methods wore particularly thin in the Premier League. In fact, in Sunderland's next game against Liverpool, Grant Leadbitter was the only squad change. He returned from injury. As the January transfer window opened, none of those warned had left.
It remained Keane's trump card throughout his time; the notion that he could upgrade a player at his convenience. But for his flaws it is hard to find a fan that did not feel Sunderland was better for the Keane experience. The money spent was offset by the profile he brought; for a while intermittent Premier League followers could have been forgiven if they thought ‘Roy Keane's Sunderland' was actually a franchise. The same goes for Swindon at present. Despite a week that has seen Swindon lose three times in all competitions, its squad looks capable of challenging for successive promotions. And for as long as Swindon - or Di Canio for that matter - remains in the lower leagues, the fear factor will work. Players will either not want to fail Di Canio, or be too afraid of missing out on something that has the potential to be special. Alas, like Keane, it has scope for the other extreme, too; one of self-destruction.
Should Di Canio become the manager West Ham United clearly wants him to be, he needs to stray from the path reminiscent of a fellow fiery character. As his career trajectory continues to ascend, it is the threats, not his players, which need to fall by the wayside. Sunderland fans have since learned the value of publically commenting on players - the rise of Jordan Henderson's value after endless praise from Steve Bruce was akin to that first season under Keane. Those carrying the scars of his public criticisms were just about given away. Diplomacy was never Roy's strong point, as a player or a manager, but the recent insistence of Di Canio sets alarm bells ringing. Swindon fans should undoubtedly continue to enjoy the ride, but beware the bearded man.